Young professionals in the construction, engineering, and environmental industries who are serious about rising to the top of the profession will seek a mentor to guide them through their education and early career. A good mentor can provide insight into the industry and help these young professionals find the opportunities that will develop their skills and expertise.
This article speaks specifically about the importance of mentoring in the construction industry, and why it’s critical “… to invest more heavily in the success of the youngest ones among us-personal, one-on-one mentoring… to identify potential and encourage professional development.” The author shares how the one-on-one attention he received throughout his career brought him to where he is today. In this interview, a construction project manager says that mentoring was key to keeping her in the industry, and she suggests it as a method of retaining top talent.
Becoming a mentor is a privilege, but it’s also an opportunity. You might find yourself connecting with some promising talent that you can bring to your firm, or if your mentee is already at your firm, you have the opportunity to guide him to a position that will benefit the entire company. It’s a job that should be taken seriously. Here are seven tips to help you be a great mentor.
1. Be Honest
Do you really want to be a mentor? Is it inspiring, or do you feel like it’s a hassle? To be a great mentor, you have to want to be a mentor. If you don’t feel you can offer your mentee what she is looking for, don’t agree to the position.
2. Be Clear About Expectations
Each mentor-mentee relationship is unique. Some mentees might want to pick your brain once over dinner. Others will meet with you regularly for years. The Environmental Leadership Mentoring program at Yale University requires that you “… outline the structure and expectations of the relationship” and “work with your mentee to set professional goals for the year.”
This Journal of Extension article confirms that having clear roles and responsibilities and clear long- and short-term goals are important to a healthy mentoring relationship. If you’re not both happy with the arrangement, you’re both better off finding a new partner.
3. Know Your Focus
A young anthropologist is best matched with an experienced anthropologist, not an oceanographer. Make sure your mentee has goals that line up with the career path you’ve taken so you can best mentor him along that path.
4. Ask and Listen
Even if you’re in the same field, your mentee might not have the vision of his or her role in the industry that you do. Listen to what your mentee has to say not only about her career, but about her family, hobbies, and other priorities. Getting to know your mentee as a person and as a professional will help you guide him toward the education and opportunities that best suit him.
The Center for Construction Research and Training shared the results of this study, which listed “Is a good listener” as the most important quality in a mentor in the construction trades.
5. Find Unique Opportunities for Your Mentee
Use your knowledge and connections to help your mentee find classes, seminars, and other opportunities she might not be able to find on her own. You don’t need to call in any favors; simply keep an eye out for ways to help your mentee advance her career. EPICS in IEEE mentions how mentoring can help young engineers expand their networks.
6. Share the Ups and Downs
This goes for your own career as well as his. Don’t hide your mistakes or regrets, past or present. Tell your mentee about the times in your career when you wish you had done something differently. “Willing to share negative information” was the second most important quality in a construction mentor as shared by CPWR.
Take a look at the major issues in your industry. In construction, help your mentee consider what can be done about the lack of qualified workers. In the environmental industry, examine the challenges of building a successful business while protecting the environment. All three industries need professionals who are ready to tackle the added complexities of new technology and environmental sustainability.
At the same time, remember to share your own career highlights, and celebrate with your mentee when he passes a class, gets a promotion, or lands his first major client.
7. Set the Bar High
Conduct yourself, personally and professionally, in the way you’d hope to see your mentee emulate. This goes for your own projects and continuing education as well as how you run a meeting, talk about clients when they’re not there, and relate to your co-workers. Your mentee is definitely watching.